It wasn’t until halfway up a 36-foot ladder leaning against nothing but a small ceiling trap door at the top that I realized I had a of fear not having a safety net. I stopped climbing and clung to the ladder that was bouncing after climbing each rung. I felt like I was suspended on a string in space and I froze.
I knew that if I climbed up, I would have to climb down. Part of my brain told myself to climb down immediately from where I was.
The other part of my brain told myself that I would probably never again have the chance to see what I was climbing to see. And I really wanted to see it. I gathered my wits about me and climbed to the top. There, I learned that I had to kind of swing my leg around and off of what little safety and stability the ladder provided and climb into the ceiling. Seriously terrifying to me!
But I did it! I felt so strong and empowered! The experience rewarded my new-found bravery.
When I climbed back down, I stared solidly forward, not looking up or down. I made it back down the ladder to the carpeted floor’s safety.
My Fear Bucket List
That experience changed me. For various reasons, I knew some fears festered in my psyche so I created a Fear Bucket List and set out to conquer my fears.
I jumped off cliffs, swam with sharks, tried scary-looking foods, did a hike I didn’t think I could do, kept my nerve as I fought through a riptide (I didn’t do that purposely, but it had been a fear), and various other typical fear things. I came to a point a couple of years ago where I couldn’t think of anything else to do.
Had I really conquered all of my fears?
I sat the checked-off Fear Bucket List on a mental shelf and went on with my life.
Short List of Mutual Interests
In one of our marriage chats, Anthony and I made a very short list of mutual interests. The ways we relax are totally different. What we need to fill our souls is totally different. So instead of dwelling on how we’d evolved over the years to have nothing in common, we identified and celebrated the things we do have in common.
Riding motorcycles together is one item on that list. Before moving to Hawai’i, we always had a bike we rode together. For many years I had my own bike. We loved our motorcycling adventures.
I had a lingering medical issue where I’d black out and experienced that while riding my motorcycle to work through an intersection. Totally freaked me out. I didn’t ride by myself for a while. Someone approached us to buy my bike when we were moving, and we sold it.
Impact at Applecross
One of Anthony’s dreams was riding Applecross in the Highlands of Scotland. Having served my mission in Scotland, I’m always willing to return. So in 2009 we booked our trip, planned a stay on Skye where we rented two motorcycles from an amazing chap, and from there set out on our Applecross adventure.
I’ve written about that experience several times. For the point I’m making here, suffice it to say that I crashed dramatically in front of Anthony on a switchback on Applecross. He thought I was dead and going over the side of the cliff, so did I. Conveniently, I lived.
We’d had a scooter store, so still had a favorite nimble red scooter we took with us to Hawai’i. I’d go visiting teaching on it with my companion who also had a scooter. We thought we were so cool. At the time, we lived in Punalu’u on the North Shore of O’ahu which has basically one road to ride on.
While riding my scooter on Kamehameha Highway, I’d flashback to the crash. I felt fear grip my chest and look for escape routes. Well, there weren’t any escape routes aside from plunging into oncoming traffic or the beach or ocean. I stifled my fears and ultimately felt I’d overcome them.
We sold the scooter and Anthony’s motorcycle when we moved from Hawai’i to Salt Lake City, Utah. He soon felt the need for his cycle therapy and bought another bike in Utah. I said I’d rather spend the money elsewhere so we didn’t buy me a bike.
During this time in Salt Lake City, I climbed the suspended-in-space ladder and created my Fear Bucket List. After moving back to Hawai’i, I felt like I’d checked everything off the list.
Adding to the Fear Bucket List
Then we landed in Lubbock, Texas, with the small list of things we like to do together. Anthony actively searched for a motorcycle for me to drive or one to ride with him. He kept asking if it was something I wanted. I knew we both loved it and said, yes, but didn’t feel drawn to rush out and buy anything. Plus, I’m often freezing and riding in the cold does not interest me. That’s one thing I kept repeating.
Anthony went to look at bikes. He took me back to test ride a big bike with the cushiest passenger seat I’d ever experienced. But it wasn’t the right bike for us.
Anthony found a Harley Davidson Sportster in excellent condition with low miles and scheduled a time to see it. Since it would be my bike, he asked if I could go with him. I told him I would but I would not test drive the bike with an audience. I trusted his opinion on its rideability.
Wow, what an awesome bike! He said it rode well. I sat on it to make sure the stance worked for me. It did. And we drove away.
At home, he asked about my reticence. It confused him. We talked about Applecross and how I hadn’t really operated a motorcycle since then. I realized I felt some trepidation at the prospect of riding by myself again.
On Monday, he messaged me to see if I wanted the bike. It was still available.
That evening, we bought the bike. I didn’t get out of the truck. (It was cold!) Anthony had cold-weather gear and rode the bike home in 30-degree temperatures. He was giddy pulling into the garage. It rode well and was nimble. He said it handled better than my Honda did.
Back on the Horse(power)
The next afternoon was a respite from the freezing temperatures. When he got home from work, I was ready to ride the bike.
We have a really long driveway from the back of the house to the street. I felt comfortable testing out my skills on the driveway and then progressing when ready.
I excitedly got on the bike. I felt its power rumbling beneath me and I suddenly skidded across the Applecross asphalt again. The force of feeling took my breath away. I didn’t turn off the bike, but I just sat there for a moment. I told Anthony what I was experiencing.
He’s so compassionate and patient. “When you’re ready” was all he said.
“This isn’t Applecross,” I told myself. I saw myself climbing down that ladder and climbing out of shark-infested waters. I could do this! I let out the clutch and began to move.
I thought I’d be able to quickly overcome the fear once I got on the bike, but actually, I worked up gradually to the road. When I hit the asphalt and felt the acceleration and the wind hitting my face and hair again, I shouted out loud for joy, remembering all the awesome years of riding!
I felt so free.
I still felt flashbacks; the Applecross experience seriously traumatized me. But I didn’t consciously realize how that one experience bound me until I faced operating a motorcycle again. And when I made the conscious decision to shake off what bound me, I immediately felt free.
This is what each new year, each new day offers us. We have an opportunity to face triggers and fears, even when we don’t recognize them as such, and find a freeing fresh wind against our faces. We can be free from the things that bind us if we use those opportunities as opportunities.
Good luck in conquering anything that binds you.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.
LOVE THIS ARTICLE.
HAU’OLI MAKAHIKI HOU!!
Thank you so much, Sherri! I appreciate your reading it and commenting! Happy New Year to You and ALOHA!!
Such a good reminder to find my own triggers and fears or whatever is holding me back and releasing myself into freedom
I hope the experience is better than you even expect it can be!